The Independent National Electoral Commission on Wednesday suspended the collation of results for the Edo State governorship election until Thursday (today).
The election, held on Wednesday, has thrown up two leading candidates – Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party and Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress.
Both candidates, from some of the unofficially released results at the Ward Level, were coasting neck to neck as at midnight on Wednesday.
The Electoral Act forbids the announcement of results yet to be authenticated by INEC.
But the Edo State Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC, Sam Olumekun, has said the collation of the results would commence on Thursday.
Olumekun announced this at the collation centre in Benin after a closed-door meeting with a National Commissioner and two Resident Electoral Commissioners at 11.20pm on Wednesday.
He, however, did not give reasons for the shift.
The decision to commence the collation on Thursday could be traced to the late arrival of results from the 18 local government areas of the state.
Security was tight at the INEC office, while movement to the area had been restricted to only accredited officers and staff.
At the INEC office, party agents, journalists and election observers were seen waiting for the commencement of collation of results from the local government areas.
However, before the announcement was made, some journalists, mainly from the print and online newspapers, were ejected from the collation centre at Ikpoba Hill in Benin.
No reason was given for the action and no staff of INEC addressed the newsmen on the development.
Those allowed to remain the hall were those from the electronic media.
But this was not before allegations and counter allegations of rigging had been made by the two leading parties in the race – the PDP and APC.
The PDP in a statement by its factional spokesperson, Dayo Adeyeye, said there were plans to rig the election overnight by the APC.
In a statement, Adeyeye said: “Having received results from our agents at approximately 1800 out of the 2627 polling units spread across the 192 Wards in the 18 local government areas of Edo State, we can confirm that our party has attained a near unassailable lead in the Edo State gubernatorial election.
“The results so far confirm to us that our candidate has garnered approximately 55% of the total votes cast by voters. We have every reason to be confident that we will maintain this trend and coast home to victory.
“However, we are aware that members of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) led by Governor Adams Oshiomole, in collusion with officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Mrs. Amina Waziri, are relentless in their efforts to manipulate the results of this election.
“We are aware that Governor Oshiomole is currently (last night) moving from collation centre to collation centre with the objective of manipulating the results as much as possible. We will like to reiterate our earlier notes of warning. The Edo people, and our party, will resist any attempt to subvert the collective will of the people as expressed by their votes today.
“We urge our members and supporters in the state to continue keeping the faith by guarding their votes at the Ward Collation Centres and Local Government Collation Centres. Eternal vigilance is the price we all have to pay for victory.”
But the APC has countered the statement.
Its National Vice-Chairman (South), Segun Oni, said: “The PDP is simply being mischievous.
“From the results I have seen from the field, from where we are monitoring the elections here in Abuja, the APC is in a comfortable lead.
“Out of a hundred, the PDP has not won five, even in units they claim to have won.
“We are investigating because the number of voters exceeds the number of registered voters per unit.”
Also, the Edo State Chairman of the APC, Anselm Ojezua, dismissed the allegation.
Ojezua described it as mischievous since only INEC had the constitutional power to determine the winner of the election.
Ojezua said: “The fact that they are actually making those claims already tells me that there is mischief in the air because it is traditional that even when you know what the situation is, you have to wait for INEC to announce the results.
“If you see the fantastic results that are being posted from certain locations, you know that they could not have been credible.
“Therefore, I think that what they are doing is just to create more confusion.”
Ojezua said a case in point is the announcement of results from the Ovia North-East Local Government Area on the Internet.
Ojezua said: “We are concerned about the figure being circulated on the Internet about the Ovia North-East.
“Certainly, we are collating the results and we will officially respond.”